Jesus teaches about the doctrine of election throughout the Gospels, as well. The parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 11:1-14 ends with Jesus saying, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” In Matthew 24, Jesus refers to believers as “the elect” in verses 22, 24, and 31. Romans 8:33, 1 Peter 1:1, and 2 Timothy 2:10 also refer to believers as the “elect.”
God chooses by His own reasons and by His own character, which necessarily means that it is done in love. This is not always obvious to us. But scripture also teaches that God has hidden many of his reasons for acting from mankind. Matthew 11:25-30 and Luke 10:21-22 reveal that God has hidden some things that relate to salvation from those who consider themselves wise, and Jesus praises Him for doing so. Then in the same line of thought speaks of choosing to whom the Son will reveal the Father.
Election is specifically taught in both Paul’s and Peter’s New Testament letters. Romans 11 talks at length about God’s remnant that was chosen by grace and how that choice is irrevocable. Even the Jews who are now enemies of the gospel will one day be saved. They are chosen and God’s promises will be honored. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 reveals that Paul knew those he was writing to were chosen because He had witnessed their conviction by the Holy Spirit. Their salvation was accomplished by God, not by Paul’s fancy preaching. Peter writes in 2 Peter 1 that our obedient response to God gives us assurance of our election.
We should be grateful for our opportunity to serve God because we can only come to Him if He calls us. Not everyone gets the opportunity to serve others on behalf of our creator God, and so we should treat our election as a privilege, not a burden. In John 6:41-48 Jesus emphasizes that no one can come to Him unless the Father first grants it and again in John 6:63-65. This should not give us doubt about our salvation, but give us assurance of its permanence. In verse 37 of the same chapter Jesus tells us that all who are given to Him do come and that Jesus will never cast them out.
Many do not like the idea of this doctrine because they say it makes salvation a mechanical coercion in which we have no say. We are forced to convert and so it is not a true act of faith. However, God can persuade us without forcing us. God knows all about us. His method of bringing us to salvation is one of calling and persuasion, not forcing us to do something, as seen in passages such as Acts 17:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 5:11.
Does the doctrine of election mean that God is purposefully leaving people out? Doesn’t that make it unfair? First, even if God did leave people out, should we then reject the grace that has been given to us? But Scripture actually teaches that everyone who is willing and wants to come to God is chosen. John 3:16 and John 6:37 both say that whoever comes to Jesus will never be cast away. No one who wants to be saved is every turned away.
Some don’t like the expression of this doctrine because they say it rules out the need for evangelism. But God’s choosing involves our necessary involvement. We have already seen that God uses persuasion, not mechanical coercion. We are commanded to go out. God uses our evangelism as part of His persuasion and calling. Who in scripture is more evangelistic that John and Paul? Yet, their books contain most of the teaching about this very doctrine of election.
We have only three choices: God will save everyone, which means that sin is not important; God will save no one, which means that sin is most important; or that God will only save some, which means that sin is important, but God’s love is most important. This last option is what the Bible teaches.
Therefore God’s salvation is sure and permanent. If salvation depends on His love and His grace, our failures cannot make us lose that salvation.
Part 2 – Doctrine of the Atonement
The second part of the theology surrounding our redemption is the atonement made for us by Jesus Christ as the forgiveness of our sins.
The first aspect of this atonement is that Jesus perfectly kept the Old Testament law. Galatians 4:4-5 says that Jesus was born under the law so that He could save those under the law. In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus says that He did not come to abolish the law and that it would not fade away until all of it was fulfilled. In John chapter 8, verses 29 and 46, Jesus proclaims that He always does what God asks of Him, and none of those listening could bring any charge against Him. 1 Peter 2:21-23 states plainly that Jesus committed no sin and never deceived anyone.
The second aspect of this atonement is that Jesus substituted His perfect life for our imperfect life. In 1 Peter 2:24, the apostle Peter tells us that Jesus bore our sins in our place. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that though He knew no sin, He was made to be sin for us. Hebrews 7:26-28 says that Jesus was perfect and without sin, but he offered Himself up for us.
The third aspect of this atonement is that Jesus’ sacrifice made full atonement for all of our sins by His death and resurrection. Romans 5:10 reveals that we have been reconciled to God through Jesus’ death and given life through His life. 1 Peter 3:18 reassures us by telling us that Jesus Christ died once for all sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, bringing us to God so there is no need for another sacrifice. We see this again in Romans 6:10, Hebrews 7:27, and throughout Hebrews 9 and 10.
Because of the doctrine of election, some say that this atonement must be limited. It was only enough to save a certain number of sins: Jesus’ finite suffering and finite volume of blood only covered a finite amount of sin. But the atonement is not quantitative, equating volume of blood to numbers of sins. Scripture teaches that the atonement was a general atonement that was made for all people. 1 John 2:1-2 says that the atonement is not just for us so that we can come to the Father, but that it was made for the whole world. Jesus has made the sacrifice for all and it is available to all. It is possible for any man to be saved, but not all are persuaded to trust in the gospel messages. Many are called, but few are chosen. John 3:16-19 says that mankind’s sin is already atoned for and all we need to do is believe to take part in that atonement. Light is in the world, but mankind loves darkness. Christ made it possible for all people to be saved, but many will reject His salvation because they love darkness.
The cross is how Jesus made atonement for us. Hebrews 9 teaches that God commanded a blood sacrifice for sin and Jesus died bleeding for us. God’s requirements for our salvation were met in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His character was not compromised, His righteousness was vindicated, and His love was bestowed on us.
Paul ends his discussion of election and atonement in Romans 11:33-36 by saying, ” Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”
This is part 2 of the fourth lesson in a twelve part series on Basic Theology. Each part is broken into two half-hour sections. These recordings are part of a series called Theologoumenon. They were recorded by Dr. Bush in 1979 so that people in the churches, not just in seminary classrooms, could have easy access to lessons in basic theology.
1. The Word of God (part 1 – part 2)
2. God the Creator (part 1 – part 2)
3. God the Redeemer (part 1 – part 2)
4. Redemption (part 1 – part 2)
5. The Holy Spirit and His Gifts (part 1 – part 2)
6. The Trinity (part 1 – part 2)
7. The Doctrine of Sin Part 1 (part 1 – part 2)
8. The Doctrine of Sin Part 2 (part 1 – part 2)
9. Salvation (part 1 – part 2)
10. Doctrine of the Church (part 1 – part 2)
11. Last Things (part 1 – part 2)
12. How to Recognize Heresy (part 1 – part 2)